The investigation into the culture within the Washington Football Team has already led to significant fallout for someone completely unaffiliated with that franchise, in the release of Jon Gruden's racist, homophobic, and misogynistic emails. Now, ESPN's Adam Schefter is caught in the middle of a debate on journalistic ethics after the Los Angeles Times released details of his own email exchange with former team president Bruce Allen.
Many of the Gruden emails, including the first to receive attention featuring a racist barb hurled towards NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, were sent around the 2011 standoff between players and owners on a new CBA. In reporting on the story, Schefter reached out to Allen, a source of his on the story, and gave him an unpublished draft of the story, calling him "Mr. Editor."
"Please let me know if you see anything that should be added, changed, tweaked," Schefter said. "Thanks, Mr. Editor, for that and the trust. Plan to file this to espn around 6 am."
That has set off plenty of debate around the journalism world. Some believe it is okay to double check on details with sources for important stories, if that is all it is. Others think that this was completely inappropriate by Schefter.
Adam Schefter responded to the situation in an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia, saying that "it's a common practice to run information past sources," and that he was looking for clarity on the complex subject at hand.
“I’ve learned for a long time in this business not to discuss sources, or the process, or how stories are done,” Schefter said. “But I would just say that it’s a common practice to run information past sources. And in this particular case, during a labor intensive lockout that was a complicated subject that was new to understand. I took the extra rare step to run information past one of the people that I was talking to. You know, it was an important story to fans; a host of others, and that’s the situation.”
In a quote to the Los Angeles Times published in the same piece, ESPN also supported Schefter.
"Without sharing all the specifics of the reporter's process for a story form 10 years ago during the NFL lockout, we believe that nothing is more important to Adam and ESPN than providing fans the most accurate, fair and complete story."
It's certainly a stick spot here, and we could definitely use more context on what Bruce Allen was actually granted. If Schefter was just reaching out for clarity on phrasing or something along those lines, it may not be super unfair, but if he gave Allen, who was far from a neutral party in a labor dispute, carte blanche to direct the framing of that story, it is very bad.
We probably haven't heard the last from Schefter or ESPN on this. And, as many continue to bring up, we still haven't heard anything about what was uncovered on Dan Snyder and the Washington Football Team in the 650,000 emails that have reportedly been reviewed.